UPDATED with George C. Wolfe signing letter: All 17 citizen members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities have resigned in the wake of President Donald Trump’s stance on the violence last weekend in Charlottesville, VA. The committee, which includes actor Kal Penn and former Sen. Ted Kennedy’s widow Vicki, penned a joint letter informing the administration of their decision.
At first the only member who didn’t sign the letter was playwright George C. Wolfe, a fact that did not go unnoticed on social media. A later version of the letter tweeted out by Penn included Wolfe’s signature. No explanation, but Penn did add, “PCAH is an official agency, that makes this the 1st White House department to resign.”
Deadline readers also noticed a more subtle message in the resignation letter: An acronym formed by the first letter of each paragraph.
“Ignoring your hateful rhetoric would have made us complicit in your words and actions,” the joint letter said in part (read it in full below).
It is the fourth such presidential advisory board to shutter in the wake of Trump’s stunning press conference Tuesday in the lobby of his Trump Tower in Manhattan, where he doubled down on his original comments that “both sides” were to blame for violent confrontations at a neo-Nazi and white supremacist rally in the Virginia city a week ago. Heather Heyer was killed in a car attack, and dozens more were injured in clashes with protestors.
After Tuesday’s presser, CEOs began dropping from Trump’s Manufacturing Jobs Initiative and Strategy & Policy Forum groups. Yesterday, the president disbanded both, and announced a similar council focused on what was to be a bipartisan topic — infrastructure — would be shuttered before it could begin.
The PCAH, whose members were appointed by President Barack Obama and held over by the Trump administration (they had not yet met under Trump), includes government officials and private citizens and features the heads of 12 federal agencies with cultural programs including the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities; the U. S. Departments of Education, Treasury and State; the Smithsonian Institution; the Library of Congress; the National Gallery of Art; and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Its honorary chairman is First Lady Melania Trump.
Today’s letter was signed by Penn, Kennedy, Wolfe, Paula Boggs, Chuck Close, Richard Cohen, Fred Goldring, Howard L. Gottlieb, Jhumpa Lahiri, Anne Luzzatto, Thom Mayne, Eric Ortner, Ken Solomon, Caroline Taylor, Jill Cooper Udall, Andrew Weinstein and John Lloyd Young.
Here’s the full text of the group’s letter today, as tweeted by Penn: